A Weekend in KZN’s Garden, at Solitude

A Weekend in KZN’s Garden, at Solitude

I have a tree. It is my tree and its towering, bright green and happy. It’s a yellowwood tree and it’s as old as I am, connected to me, like its roots are to the ground where it stands guard in my parent’s garden. My tree was planted to mark my arrival into this world and I like that.  I am quite attached to that tree.

Solitude Yellowwood cottage in the KZN Midlands

Imagine my giddy joy when we were invited to stay for a weekend at Solitude in the KZN Midlands… in a little house in the woods named Yellowwood Cottage.

Fate? I think so.

Any excuse to getaway for the weekend

Moose, our staffie-child, has just turned 3 and we decided that we’d getaway for the weekend to celebrate (read: we used this as our excuse and do what we love best.) He loves a good weekend away somewhere pretty and natural as much as we do and it was absolutely pivotal that we celebrated is “21st birthday” (in doggie years) in a way we would remember.

Moose enjoying Solitude in the KZN Midlands

We arrived at our Midlands haven; the juvenile yellowwoods welcomed us alongside the cosy wooden cottage with its amber light shining from within that evening. They will grow to be tall giants and rival the pine trees which populate and govern over the area and farm. The pines run that neck of the woods, but those yellowwoods are a bound for greatness too.

Yellowwood cottage collage

A house with a wooden heart

This wooden cottage amongst the trees was to be our home for the weekend in KZN’s garden. It stands tall, like its tree neighbours- a double story “treehouse” exuding such character and a wooden heart. Looking onto a small dam and hidden by greenness it was the most idyllic spot to spend a weekend and just celebrate life.

Yellowwood cottage amongst the trees in KZN Midlands

In exploring it we found ourselves s on a continuous treasure hunt all through the weekend as we discovered more and more hidden details. An old suitcase beneath the stairs, a kist that shouted of history being used as a coffee table, a wooden ladder propped up against the wall and a child’s wooden school desk from yesteryear, complete with ink pot holder, sitting in a corner in the second bedroom. There were also paintbrushes in jugs, pots hanging up as décor pictures in window pane frames and a spinning wheel which greeted us at the top of the stairs.

Hidden details inside the yellowwood cottage

It was charismatic but so welcoming too.

It’s a dog’s life

Those wooden stairs turned out to be Moose’s nemesis as he just  could not convince himself that he was a big boy and perfectly capable of walking up them. He’d hop down without a care, but up? No ways! We carried our muscle mechanic of a pooch up those stairs countless times. We’re still considering a name change to ‘Courage the Cowardly Dog” because of it.

Enjoying the KZN Midlands from Solitude

Other waggly tailed friends came to visit us often during the weekend, instantly aware of a new wet nose in their hood. It was perfect for a pooch party. The caretaker’s dogs popped in now and then and one of them (Woodie) accompanied Moose for braais, dam swims and on some of our walks and bike rides around the property.

We also met up with a few farm dogs when on a meandering ride along the farm roads in the area. They were beside themselves with glee to meet a new friend.

It’s a dog’s life in the countryside, that’s for sure.

Scenes from the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands

Succumbing to Peace

Our weekend was a  happy, leisurely montage of breakfasts in bed, braais in our garden as the Midlands mist rolled in, afternoons on a blanket on the grass with wine, beers, books and birds all around and wanderings to the dam to watch the ducks and throw a stick around.

KwaZulu-Natal Midlands from Solitude

We listened to the pitter patter of rain on wood and watched it through panes as a rainbow appeared. We sat on the deck and took in the views of hills and trees and sky. We slept like… well like dogs, as the frogs crooned at night and we woke to bird song in the mornings.  We found peace instantly and couldn’t help but succumb to it.

A Bike ride meander

On the Saturday morning we went gently adventuring on our bikes. Let it be known that I cannot label myself a cyclist in the least. I am actually pretty unstable on two wheels but I certainly get the appeal of the mode of exploring and loved it that morning. Winding along a pleasant, pretty route with views as a reward was wonderful.

KwaZulu-Natal Midlands scenery

It was such a special morning spent together, taking in the countryside surroundings and just getting back in touch with that feeling of just being and being part of a natural setting. We pedalled (and pushed, admittedly) up a very steep hill, stopping to take it all in as we went. From the top, we could see farmlands for days. Green and happy, dotted with fat cows and a farm house every now and then.

Biking in the KZN Midlands

We free-wheeled down and turned off to ride along the forest tracks for a bit, Moose on the leash and competing with Graham’s bike ecstatically. We found a dam just off the deserted road and veered off for a well-deserved sit in the grass and beverage with a different view.

Always opportunity for more easy-going exploring

Later we drove around a bit further along more forest tracks, past clusters of rural farm community homes and to the edge of Midmar dam next to the road which eventually leads to Solitude.

An early morning stroll with Moose the next day took us to the dam again to see the setting in a different light. We walked passed the other 3 cottages on the property, which are also self-catering accommodation for those looking for a peace-filled getaway. We greeted the monkeys in the pine trees that lined our path and listened to the resident orioles as they provided the background score.

It was a good place to be.

Exploring in KZN's garden

Absorbing that happy, free and connected feeling

On our last night at Solitude, whilst marinating myself in bubbles in the big bath complete with its clawed feet, I revelled in the content feeling a weekends away like that brings.

Scenes from the Midlands countryside

Time spent out together, somewhere natural and beautiful, pulsing with nature’s life puts things in perspective. It refuels my soul and reconnects me to the environment as I feel so close to it and part of it.

It was a time spent in a green setting that let us just be.

Just be together in KZN’s garden.

In need of a peaceful weekend in the KZN Midlands too? For more details and bookings, visit the Solitude Retreat Centre website.

Originally published on This is KZN on 14 March 2015.